Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

This page will be updated continuously with the latest from IJDH & BAI. 

Haiti’s long struggle for democracy and justice is undergoing a particularly difficult period. The chronic challenges of underdevelopment, weak rule of law and foreign interference are aggravated by a kleptocratic and increasingly authoritarian rule. Government corruption has increased steadily over the past eight years—many observers claim corruption is worse now than it was under the Duvalier dictatorship—and as citizens have increased their protests the government has increased its repression of dissent.

The immediate cause of the unrest that erupted July 6 was the implementation of drastic fuel price increases required by an International Monetary Fund agreement. But the roots of the crisis lay in a history of government corruption, and recent outrage is due to revelations of up to $3 billion of missing funds from the Petro Caribe fuel assistance from Venezuela. Since then, Haitians have been organizing, spreading information through social media about government corruption and planning peaceful protests. They march against impunity and are demanding the return of the money– money that was to have been used to address the country’s glaring needs: hunger, healthcare, education, infrastructure, and cholera eradication.
Police have deployed increasingly aggressive tactics, including illegal arrests of legal demonstrators and even state-sanctioned massacres carried out as part of a government effort to intimidate its opponents ahead of planned protests. These and countless other human rights violations all contribute to acute civil unrest in Haiti. Corruption has also generated double-digit inflation, severe currency depreciation and sharp cutbacks to government services.

BAI has been fighting the root causes of the current unrest for the 23 years of its existence. The BAI speaks out about corruption, police violence, and the return of Haiti’s brutal army, and fought for better elections in 2015/16 (with important, but limited success), all of which creates opportunities for Haitians to peacefully organize for a better life and a better government. BAI also freed several protest leaders arrested in demonstrations against the misuse of Petrocaribe funds and took on new clients arrested illegally after the protests of October and November 2018, and still more as a result of the state-sanctioned La Saline massacre in November. This work gets jailed dissidents out of custody and back to work, gives other activists assurance they need to mount their own challenges to undemocratic policies, and deters government misconduct.

The BAI is also working with a broad spectrum of civil society to coordinate strategy on the current protests, and on a path to follow if the government departs. The Bureau’s chief contributions to this effort are to a) help collaborators articulate their grievances in terms of human rights and the rule of law, b) explain the rights of protestors and dissidents, and c) establishing a foundation to ensure that human rights and the rule of law are respected in any new or reformed government.

The protest movement has continued into 2019 with a major multi-day strike that began with the anniversary of the end of the Duvalier dictatorship. A broad spectrum of society, including pro-democracy, business and religious groups, are calling for significant changes to the government, including the President’s resignation. Most observers expect the government to respond with increasing illegal measures. BAI’s work providing support for the popular movement in Haiti is now more critical than ever due to the current period of acute civil unrest in Haiti, within a chronic trend of decreasing space for Haitians to peacefully pressure their government to provide basic services and respect fundamental human rights.

BAI/IJDH Coverage: 

Haití, el país que muestra que siempre se puede estar peor y el rol del chavismo en la última crisis, featuring Bea Lindstrom and Brian Concannon, March 13, 2019
La Lettre Ouverte à Madame l’Ambassadeur des Etats Unis en Haiti, BAI, February 28, 2019
Open Letter to Madam Ambassador of the United States in Haiti, BAI, February 28, 2019
Webinar: Haiti Briefing, featuring Brian Concannon, New England International Donors, February 27, 2019
What’s Happening in Haiti Is An Embarrassment to the US, featuring Brian Concannon, Sputnik Radio, February 21, 2019
Repons BAI Sou Denye Mobilizasyon Nasyonel Nan Ayiti (BAI Response on the Latest National Protests in Haiti), February 15, 2019.
Haiti Swept by Massive Anti-Corruption Uprisings, featuring Brian Concannon, RT, February 15, 2019 (14:51-25:40)
Haiti’s Presidential Protests, featuring Brian Concannon, The Newsmakers, February 15, 2019 (segment- 3:25-16:20)
Where Did Haiti’s Aid Go?, featuring Sienna Merope-Synge, The Newsmakers, November 30, 2018
BAI on Corruption and #PetroCaribeChallenge, September 14, 2018
If Haiti’s government does not confront poverty, corruption, more unrest will follow, Brian Concannon Jr, Miami Herald, July 17, 2018
Pozisyon Biwo Avoka Entènasyonal yo (BAI) sou konjonkti sosyo-politik peyi a Nòt nimewo 1 pou laprès (Position of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) on the socio-political situation of the country), press release, July 12, 2018

Media Coverage:

Our Boss Will Call Your Boss: An Investigative Report on the Mercenaries Arrested in Haiti, CEPR & Haiti Relief and Reconstruction Watch, March 11, 2019
Haiti’s Troubles Must Not Be Forgotten, NPR, March 4, 2019
American’s arrested in Haiti with arsenal of guns won’t face U.S. charges, Miami Herald, February 21, 2019
Haiti’s Unfinished Revolution Is Still In Effect, Tikkun, February 19, 2019.
For Haitians, a reprieve from violence and protests on Sunday, but uncertainty remains, Miami Herald, February 17, 2019.
Violent protests in Haiti may mean a humanitarian crisis, PBS, February 16, 2019.
U.S. looks to send food aid to Haiti as violence brews humanitarian crisis, Miami Herald, February 15, 2019.
Haiti is once again on edge, and Humanitarian Aid groups debate…, Miami Herald, February 14, 2019.
Haiti President recalls top envoy amid ongoing violence…, Miami Herald, February 13, 2019.
Haiti and the collapse of a political and economic system, The Haitian Times, February 12, 2019.
Haiti business leaders ask President to break gridlock after another day of violence, Miami Herald, February 11, 2019.
Protestors stone home of Haiti President, Clash with Police, AP, February 9, 2019.
As protests and deaths escalate in Haiti, mayors cancel pre-Carnival…, Miami Herald, February 8, 2019.
It’s been 33 years since Haiti welcomed democracyMiami Herald, February 7, 2019.
Haïti, un autre 7 février compliqué, Le Nouvelliste, February 6, 2019.
Is Haiti awakening to change? New York Times, December 26, 2018.
Haitians Furious at Their Government Protest in a Week of Unrest, The New York Times, November 23, 2018.
Haiti gripped by tension as president stays out of sight, AFP, November 21, 2018.
PetroCaribe : La FJKL estime que le procès est mal engagé, Le Nouvelliste, November 11, 2018.
PetroCaribe : « Le gouvernement n’a aucune volonté de mener une enquête », soutient Claudy Gassant, Le Nouvelliste, October 22, 2018.

Haitians Want to Know What the Government Has Done with Missing Oil Money, New Yorker, October 19, 2018.

Thousands protest corruption in Haiti as president calls for unity and patience, Miami Herald, October 17, 2018.

If Haiti’s government does not confront poverty, corruption, more unrest will follow, Brian Concannon Jr, Miami Herald, July 17, 2018

 

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
15 Newbury St
Boston, MA

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
General Inquiries: info@ijdh.org
Media Inquiries: media@ijdh.org